By Saddia Mazhar
Islamabad, May 30 (newsin.asia): Twenty-three-year-old Iqra Ahmed discards her gloves and gingerly sprays a diluted solution of disinfectant on her mask, careful to avoid touching anything around her lest she exposes her younger siblings and elderly parents to the coronavirus.
She is exhausted after working for nearly 12 hours as a volunteer to help provide food and other rations to people suffering of hunger during lockdown. Her exposure to suffering motivated her to join the new volunteer “ Tiger Force” started by Prime Ministe Imran Khan.
“I registered for the Tiger Force within the first few days,” she says. “I … wanted to serve my country during this crisis.”
The force is part of an ambitious multi-pronged strategy by the Imran government to impose movement restrictions and shut down industries while also ensuring that Pakistan’s poor – many of whom rely on daily wages to survive – continue to receive adequate supplies of food and other essentials.
According to a 2016 United Nations Development Programme study, at least 39 percent of Pakistan’s 220 million population live in multi-dimensional poverty.
Nation-wide registration opened on March 31 for the Prime Minister’s “Corona Relief Tiger Force”. Within no time, 14,848 individuals had registered themselves in Sahiwal District. And all were called to join immediately. Out of these 3788 have started their respective assignments with commitment and team spirit. This was revealed in a report by the Deputy Commissioner of Sahiwal.
The Tiger Force has brought people from different social, economic and educational and professional backgrounds closer to achieving a single goal – to fight hunger. The list of registered people from Sahiwal includes Humayun Sajjad, Co-founder of Local a non-government organization working for poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. He said: “We have seen lawyers, businessmen, students, accountants offering their services.
“With the government moving to completely seal off areas with high numbers of reported cases (smart lockdown), the delivery of food to quarantined neighborhoods has already become a formidable challenge. This is where the Tiger Force of volunteers are meant to step in: providing uninterrupted food supplies to fully quarantined areas, distributing aid to the impoverished and conducting widespread hygiene and health awareness campaigns” said the spokesperson for Covid-19 relief operations in Sahiwal.
According to the records educated youth have come forward to join the Tiger Force. The breakdown of the educated registered youth is as follows: 16,662 BS ,150 short course holders, 65 certified professional trainers, 73 matriculates, 495 diploma holders, 3117 inter passes, 885 associate diploma holders, 1524 Bachelor’s degree holders, 942 master’s holders ,25 MBBS doctors , 2200 M.Phil and doctorate holders and 17 post doctorate degree holders.
“We’re generally out from 11am to 8 or 9pm. We observe social distancing protocols, but it gets crowded when it’s time for distribution,” says Ahmed.
Volunteers ask district officers if there is a need for additional food in an area, and food is then despatched, Ahmed said.
The Deputy Commissioner of Sahiwal said: “As more data is gathered and consolidated, volunteers will monitor which families have received food and which are still in need. The supply chain is managed by members of parliament for the relevant district or Tehsil.”
Youth are truly committed to helping both the government with human resource and the vulnerable with rations. “We have to distribute food and educate people about the importance of maintaining social distancing.The traditional community living style is the biggest hurdle to changing the lifestyle of the masses”, said. Jibran Ali, a doctor in the Tiger Force.
The initiative remains Pakistan’s main government tool to take on the pandemic because the key question in this country is: how to tackle the economic fallout of lockdowns?
(Photo credit: Al Jazeera)